By Jay Lloyd

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Nobody likes taxes. Everybody likes a tax refund. It’s funny how that works, If it weren’t for taxes, there would be no refund – this year, an average $2,500 in Delaware, $2,600 in Pennsylvania and a bonanza $2,900 in New Jersey. So what are you going to do with it? You know what you want to do. Go ahead, just book it – that unplanned bonus getaway. Make it a weekend or a destination splurge. As one hotel chain advertised, “After tax, relax”. So, where to go? Here’s are some of my favorites.



Blue Jay Hotel (Jay Lloyd)

Blue Jay Hotel (Jay Lloyd)

One of the cleanest, friendliest and most vibrant cities in eastern North America is less than 2 hours away by air. Air Canada offers non-stops, Philly to Toronto at around $450. No car rental is needed. There’s great public transportation. The town is brimming with a smorgasbord of restaurants, brew pubs, active night life and sports. If you’re a fan, the Phillies will be in Toronto on March 21st. Stay at the  Blue Jays Stadium Marriott Hotel (Book early for game days). Watch the action from your room patio or the restaurant. Places to see: For a spectacular panoramic view of Lake Ontario,The CN Tower is a block from the stadium. Have dinner on the waterfront – try Acqua Dolce. Then head for the Distillery District for night life in a Prohibition era setting.



Chesapeake Hyatt (Jay Lloyd)

Chesapeake Hyatt (Jay Lloyd)

A 3 hour drive down the scenic Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay brings you to Cambridge, Maryland. It’s a town with a rich history of Captain John Smith lore, as a waypoint for the Underground Railway and for the availability of those succulent Blue Crabs. The Chesapeake Hyatt on the Choptank River channels the luxury of a total spa, a comfortable 18 hole golf course, nature trails and fine dining. You can even show up with a pet. It gets the same treatment right down to doggy room service. If your ride is a power boat (sail can’t get under the Rte. 50 bridge) the hotel has a slip for you. April rates clock in as low as $165 a night. Nearby you can find fishing charter boats and historic St. Michaels for cruises on the Miles River or a crab feast at the Crab Claw eatery on the harborfront.



Lauderdale Beach (Jay Lloyd)

Lauderdale Beach (Jay Lloyd)

There’s a beachfront playground on the Ft. Lauderdale hotel strip. I like the B Ocean Resort with it’s private beach. During the month of April, you can check in here with that tax refund for $200 to $250 a night depending on the view. They do add a $35 a day resort fee, but that includes things you can actually use like beach chairs and bikes for getting around town. Spirit and American fly non-stop Philly to Ft. Lauderdale for fares ranging from $200 to $275 round-trip. If you’re not planning to go further from the resort than a bike ride, skip the rental car.



CIA Student Chefs (Jay Lloyd)

CIA Student Chefs (Jay Lloyd)

If you want a unique food experience, there’s no better place to find it than the highly regarded Culinary Institute of America. The Hyde Park, New York campus overlooks the Hudson River and holds the finest, most completely equipped kitchens in the nation. After all, it turned out many of today’s renowned chefs, and is now teaching the chefs of tomorrow. The students cook for and serve in the school’s collection of restaurants and cafes under the guidance of skilled food professionals. My 2 favorites here are the Bocuse, serving up familiar and unique dishes with a French accent and the classic Italian fare at Caterina de Medici. But all restaurants aren’t open on weekends, so plan your visit around the operating days and hours. And if you want to sharpen up your own culinary skills, a wide variety of one-day classes launch on most Saturdays. Where to stay: For a splurge, the nearby Mohonk Mountain House is the spot. For budget accommodations, there’s a nearby Hampton Inn and Quality Inn. CIA is about a 4-1/2 hour drive from Philadelphia.



Eldridge Street Synagogue (Jay Lloyd)

Eldridge Street Synagogue (Jay Lloyd)

You can’t get around it. Think of a city getaway and “New York, New York” is always at or near the top of the list. You can enjoy it in the lap of luxury at the world’s most iconic hotels – the Waldorf, Pierre, Plaza and Sherry Netherland. Or you can tuck into budget conscious Holiday Inns and Hampton Inns. This year as those tax refund checks are being cashed, we have a convergence of Easter and Passover, the last weekend of March. It’s a unique time to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral for an Easter Mass.  For an emersion into Jewish New York, visit Temple Emanu-El.   Enjoy an introduction to Passover. Or stop on Friday at the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum on the Lower East Side (closed Saturday and Sunday). Hotel prices for that weekend are in the moderate range. My choices would be the Park Central near Central Park or the Hampton Inn in Chelsea.


And thinking about that tax check and the getaway splurge, as my mother would say, “Bring back change.”


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